Red-letter theology

Several weeks ago, I had a few friends over to our house to watch Les Lanphere’s excellent Calvinist documentary. I assumed this would be their first exposure to Reformed theology, so I expected some lively discussion. About half way through the movie, we had to pause to answer a simple clarification question. Once that was done, one of the guys volunteered an interesting observation. He said: “I hope they show some quotes from Jesus, too. So far it’s just been Paul in Romans and Ephesians. I wonder what Jesus has to say about that.”

This little comment has been on my mind ever since. The traditional typography of Bibles on the North American usually includes words of Christ in red. Having grown up in Europe, I didn’t encounter this until I came to Canada about ten years ago. The motivation behind this typographic design is to give reverence to the words of Christ because when he speaks, God himself speaks. Unfortunately, what this leads to is that people treat other parts of the Bible as less important. If it’s not red, it’s as if you don’t really have to believe it. This is a really bad way of reading the Bible and doing theology in general.

A small typographic detail can make a huge difference in how we think about what we’re reading. It might be helpful for us to stop and think about the features of our Bibles to see how all the references, footnotes, verse numbers, section headings, verse-by-verse layouts affect our reading and understanding of the text of Scripture.

Related: Bible Typography Manifesto

This article was first published on November 26, 2017. As you can see, there are no comments. I invite you to email me with your comments, criticisms, and other suggestions. Even better, write your own article as a response. Blogging is awesome.